Dill has a special place in my heart for several reasons. I’m Lithuanian, so a cucumber tastes lonely without it (and a bunch of sour cream). It’s one of my favorite things to watch grow and it’s like summer in a stem. Now that I live in the South, dill equals pickles and the best dill pickle for home consumption and canning is the pickled green bean. Our CSA supplied us with a hefty share of beans recently, so back we went to the sink and the stove to preserve them for later.
I use a recipe from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff because it was the first one I tried and I like it so much, I’ve never looked for another. Her book has some wonderful recipes for jams and pickles and I highly recommend it to your perusal. I do have one fairly major issue with it: water is not listed among the ingredients for her pickle brines, but rather only included in the procedure narrative. I tend to read through a recipe a couple of times before I make it, allowing me to skim it during the process. This tendency has proven rather disastrous for me twice and I have a case of extremely vinegary beets to show for it. 😦
- 4 cups of apple cider vinegar (5% acidity)
- 4 cups water
- 3 tbsp. Kosher salt/
- 5 sprigs fresh dill
- 5 cloves garlic
- 5 or 10 hot chiles
- 2 1/2 to 5 tbsp. red pepper flake (optional)
- 2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed
Makes about five pints.
Brief aside: the flavors in most pickles can be messed around with, as long as you do not mess with the vinegar/water/salt mixture. The level of acidity in the jar is what keeps vegetables (which are not acidic like fruits are) from spoiling. For this batch, we added some mustard seeds and peppercorns, but left out the chiles.
Prepare your jars, lids, and rings for water bath canning. If you don’t know how to do this or what it entails, there are LOADS of resources available to you! Including this website! I particularly love checking books out of libraries, so that’s what I tend to do, but the internet and county extension agencies are your friend in preservation. Seek them out!
In an appropriately sized pot, combine the vinegar, water, and salt. Heat the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
While the brine is cooking, prepare your beans by trimming the ends and cutting them to a size that will fit in your jars.
Gather your herbs and spices and, once the jars are clean, place one sprig of dill, one clove of garlic, one or two chiles, and 1/2 to 1 tbsp. of red pepper flake if using in the bottom of each jar. Pack your jars with beans and, once the brine has come up to a boil, ladle it into each jar.
Use a chopstick to release any air bubbles, wipe the rim of each jar with a clean and damp paper towel, and then put on lids and rings. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
Put any jars that don’t seal into the refrigerator (the lids will pop up and down if they aren’t sealed) and allow to sit for a few days before consuming so the beans soak up all that pickle goodness and the spices have some time to work their magic. We love eating them straight out of the jar, but these beans work great on a cheese plate, in salad niçoise, or in a Bloody Mary.
DIY Aquavit (Further Adventures in Infusing)
Aquavit, friends! Aquavit!
This liquor is yet another wonderful concoction that the blog has thrown my way. I’m sure the rest of the world has known about it for years, but whatever! I can be excited about it if I want to be! Especially since you can do it your dang self!
So, for those not acquainted with aquavit: it is a Scandinavian liquor that is flavored with dill and caraway, among other things. It is one of the stranger things I have ever tasted, but I can see why it would be popular over in Denmark and the like. As a Lithuanian born in Sweden, it is right up my alley. Although it is most popularly imbibed on its own and very cold, it also works very well in cocktails.
Recipe adapted from Marcia Simmons’ version on Serious Eats because she hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 sprig fresh dill
- 1 two inch strip of lemon zest, without the pith
- 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
- 1 pod star anise
- 1/2 tsp. cardamom
Combine the vodka, dill, and lemon zest in a sealable container. Allow to steep in the sealed container at room temperature for one day. Discard the dill and lemon zest.
Add the spices to the vodka, reseal the container, and allow to steep for two more days. The mixture may be steeped for up to two weeks, depending on the flavor desired. (I took the anise out after one day and strained it after two days.) When the mixture is adequately flavored, strain the liquid through cheesecloth. Store at room temperature or in the freezer.
For cocktails, might I suggest The Horatio and The Viking. The Viking is essentially a negroni with aquavit in place of the gin, so: 1 oz. aquavit, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, and 1 oz. Campari; stirred, served over ice. Most other aquavit/negroni adaptations use Cynar and sherry, but we don’t have any Cynar. I liked the straight swap pretty well.
Thinking about bitter liqueurs with aquavit made me wonder about an aquavit/Fernet Branca pairing. Luckily Imbibe Magazine has me covered.
- 2 oz. aquavit
- 3/4 oz. Cointreau
- 1 barspoon Fernet Branca
- Dash orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a glass. Imbibe says to garnish with orange zest, but I like my garnish a whole lot better. I was a little disappointed that the dill flavor in our aquavit wasn’t more pronounced, so the fresh dill garnish really helps amp it up (in a good way).